Shopping for leather products can be confusing. There are a lot of terms for leather that speak to the quality and type of leather used in production. Full-grain, split-grain, and bonded leather to name a few. Not all leather is created equally which begs the question:
is bonded leather real leather?
Bonded leather is not real leather. Bonded leather contains scraps and fibers left over from processing leather that are blended together with a binding agent to create sheets of “bonded” leather. While bonded leather contains scraps of leather it is not fully comprised of animal hide the way that “real” leather is.
What is “real” leather?
Real leather is fully comprised of animal hide rather than leather scraps bonded with other materials. There are different grades of real leather that will inform how a product wears with age, quality, breathability, etc. Products that are made of real leather rather than bonded leather will be better quality and more durable over time because of the nature of the materials.
Real leather can vary in quality depending on the part of the hide that is used for a product. Leather grades come from the hide being split into different layers. The top layers of the hide are considered the very best quality of leather while the bottom layers of the hide are considered low-quality leather.
What leather grade should I look for?
That depends on the product you’re purchasing. You may find that you have different preferences for different products, and that’s okay. Think about your leather goods – office chairs, wallets, purses, jackets, shoes, or even couches. The way you use these products may influence your decision.
The terminology used by leather crafters and companies such as full-grain, top-grain, split-grain, and genuine speak to the grade of the leather being used to create a product and help us understand if a product is real leather.
Full-grain and top-grain leather
Full-grain and top-grain leathers are made from the highest quality parts of the hide. Full-grain leather is less processed than top-grain leather, so they will age differently over time. These leather products will be investment pieces, but they will last a very long time.
You may want one of these grades of leather for a nice jacket or purse. However, these grades of leather may not be as important to you for a product like a phone case or watch strap.
Split-grain and genuine leather
Split-grain and genuine leather are made from the lowest quality parts of the hide. They are more heavily processed and are often used to make items such as shoes and jackets. Even though it’s common and more affordable to find clothing items made from split-grain or genuine leather, you may find yourself wanting to invest in better-quality leather for a pair of shoes.
Leather products often have a stamp on the underside of the hide or a tag that tells you what grade of leather they’re made of. Next time you’re shopping, be sure to check even if just for curiosity’s sake.
What type of leather is the most durable?
Bonded and other fake leathers can crack and peel easily. They are not as durable as real leather, so once the synthetic materials wear out your products will crack and peel. Even well-cared-for bonded leather doesn’t have the ability to last the way that real leather does because of the way it is made.
Faux or vegan leather, with some maintenance, can be more durable than bonded leather because of the difference in fabric materials used for production. As a result, faux or vegan leather may not crack and peel as badly or quickly as bonded leather has the potential to.
A little bit of maintenance goes a long way for real leather, regardless of the grade. Because real leather is animal hide, it needs to stay properly cleaned and moisturized to maintain its beauty and prevent cracking and peeling. If not, your leather products may not last as long as they have the potential to. Real leather has the ability to age, often deepening in color and showing wear that adds character over time.
When considering purchasing products for their durability and longevity, real leather over bonded leather is the way to go.